The Intangibles of Decision-Making

March 16, 2010

Adam Godjin has an insightful post up at Sustaining Your Heritage on treating a painting for damage caused by an earlier intervention.  Putting aside the discussion of the treatment itself, he really gets at the keys to the conservators approach:

As conservators we think a lot about how we are going to treat an object. Often, it seems to us that conservation can be more about knowing what we cannot do rather than what we can. It is very easy to re-touch that missing section of paint, or glue a sculpture back together, but what are the consequences of our actions? In essence, this is what our training and code of ethics are all about – how do we treat the problems with an artwork or artefact whilst maintaining its significance and authenticity, and causing no harm to it now or in the future.

As a man with authority and a silver tongue once said, “There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. These are things we do not know we don’t know.”  One of the key missions of the conservator is to minimize the unknown unknowns so that informed treatment decisions can be undertaken.

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One Response to “The Intangibles of Decision-Making”


  1. […] 22, 2010 When I think about the intangibles of a conservation treatment, I generally consider the decision-making process: why one treatment strategy over another or what […]


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